Kal Aaj Aur Kal – Evolution of Branding and Advertising, from a woman’s perspective

Posted on Jan 17 2016 - 9:00am by Fayaz

The article is authored by Ms.Nidhi Iyer from Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai and is the special mention entry of article writing contest conducted by Marketing Bloggers

In an article, Rethinking Marketing to women, Sheryl Sandberg states “Marketers have opportunity to speak to women in ways that debunk stereotypes ” Inspired by the same, this write-up evaluates the changes that branding and advertising have brought in, specifically in India in past two-three decades with respect to women specific substance and content.

Radhika Apte

Right time to get Married

“Women control the vast majority of consumer spending in this country, yet when asked in a survey if advertisers understand them, 90% of women said no”- Sheryl Sandberg (AdWeek.com)

As I came across this article, I realized as my male friends relate to “Men will be Men”, I seldom find myself in any campaign.

Past:Zeenat aman

A quick flashback took me to my childhood days when my favourite show was not Friends but Mogli that aired every weekend on Doordarshan and I saw a few glimpses of the sponsors then.

Fair and Lovely: where Juhi Chawla’s husband is proud of having a fair wife or the other one where Mahima Choudhary believes she needs to be fair to become a beautiful bride ; Washing Powder Nirma : Where different women are washing clothes at their respective homes; Pepsi which was drank by Cricketers and Shahrukh Khan

Besides the funny and catchy commercials like Fevicol and Lal Kala Pila Classic, were also few meaningful ones: AMUL campaign featuring Smita Patil, Aishwarya endorsing eye donation and some condom ads which I could barely understand. (Calling the condom ads meaningful just to highlight the significance of the product over 2 minute noodles and a soap that is the beauty secret of at least 50 Bollywood actresses)

I dissected my memory further to find one advertisement that addressed a women issue and ended up finding NONE. The mind’s time traveller took me to the era of Hum Paanch and Antakshari. Promotion of sanitary pads and Contraception pills was some improvement.

Gradually channels were filled with “K” fever; the major observable shift from male dominated Swabhiman to female dominated Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin. Also there came a gamut of shows targeting different audience segments.

Our Vigyapans were also not far behind. What was once SRK’s and Sachin’s cup of Pepsi was now in Priyanka and Kareena’s hands. Dogs and squirrels started selling phone network and chocolate. Female protagonists in commercials did start going to office, however, just to come back and enter the kitchen.


KBC, 24, Satya Meva Jayate and  Barkha Dutt revolutionalized the TV industry.

But sadly in the context of women issues ad world has not changed satisfactorily. Among the ads skirting around the trivial issues such as colour of the skin, length of the hair, lip gloss and nail paints, we have only handful of them that talk about the real ones.

# Health

“Breast cancer is a non-existent entity for a majority of population till a near and dear one suffers from it. Healthcare is low on priority and even in major cities; screening is also an ‘alien’ word for most people.” (BreastCancerIndia.net)

Gale me khich khich and kamar me dard are more popular among people than breast cancer. I am not denying that the efforts are made. But the advertisements are not crafted the way they should be. From CC to BB and what not creams, lakhs have been spent on models and sets and photographers; then why not for breast cancer. Philips in its new campaign has done a wonderful job by spreading this message. Many such initiatives should be taken to cater to such issues

I am glad a product like Women’s Horlicks is launched that encourages woman to find time for herself. But she needs a lot more information and advices on her health care regime. Neglecting this is a stupidity many brands are committing.

# Hygiene

“According to the study conducted by audit firm Deloitte India, less than 10 per cent of Indian females in the reproductive age group are aware of menstrual hygiene or even basics such as use of sanitary napkins.” (Economic Times, May 2015)

Needless to mention the reasons, the use of female hygiene is need of the hour for well-being and successful future of women in India. What concerns me is that rural population is not even apprised of female hygiene necessity and remedies.

The story in urban India is slightly different but equally challenging. On one hand customers are loaded with skin care and hair care product promotions and on other hand they aren’t even acquainted with intimate care products which are equally or perhaps more essential.

“PM Modi fulfils promise of 80 lakh toilets, but not many takers in rural India.” (India Today, Aug’15)

There is absolutely no denying that we have seen some remarkable branding in recent times. Take Modi’s campaign for instance. But the fact that sex ratio is alarmingly low in many states and the villagers still prefer going to streets to attend nature’s call raises multiple question on the effectiveness of his campaigns.

# Respect

Dabur won hearts when it came up with a campaign titled #brave and beautiful. It was a heart touching concept that revolved around the challenges of cancer patients and ended with a tagline “Some people don’t need hair to look beautiful.”

Not taking away the credit of the good work here, but the same Dabur disappointed me with its honey’ Mangalsutra ad where a jealous husband marks his territory by adjusting the symbol of marriage. I fail to understand the need to beautify the insecurity of a man and spread a message that the public can letch over unmarried women.

What P&G did with its #share the load and #touch the pickle campaigns (for Ariel and Whisper) is rather something that breaks the stereotypes in pragmatic voices.



The consumers who brands should want to fall in favour with most report overwhelming dissatisfaction with the way brands speak to them. (3% conf.com)

Prahlad Kakkar, in an ET article quoted:  “India produces best ads in the world. Take the Google India Reunion ad which is based on Partition. Whenever I see it brings a lump in my throat.” In spite of this, if there are so many issues untouched, it is sound to interpret the dearth of women in creative writing to be reason.

As posited in an article in Hubspot.com “Want to Reach Female Consumers? First, Fix the Women in Advertising Problem” Sometimes a female creative team can bring a deeper insight through their own experience and create something that resonates more powerfully.

We won’t be surprised if a women copywriter writes a Gillette’s campaign or the brain behind Huggies’ commercial. But having more women on board in the agencies is definitely going to be of great help.

Who can forget how amazingly Gauri Shinde broke the norms by celebrating remarriage of a dark skinned mother in Tanishq commercial. The work done by her for Havells creatively differentiated women from appliances.

Titan Raga campaign featuring Nimrat was directed by Reshma Tonse portrayed a woman who is self-assured and confident to take charge of her life in her hands.

Sangeetha Sampath crafted Myntra’s “the visit” which was India’s first lesbian ad and like its tagline it was indeed bold & beautiful.

Roisin Donnelly, brand director, northern Europe at P&G, said: “There aren’t enough female creatives and there aren’t enough creatives that are mums. If we changed this we would do a better job.”


The power of the female consumer that ensures they control the maximum purchase decisions and spending should be reflected in the creative agencies. Moving away from kitchen appliances and addressing the day to day challenges of women by slice of life ads would indicate both talent as well as progressive mind set.

This clearly does not mean we go over-board and fuel pseudo feminism. But it is high time we raise a toast to womanhood through meaningful messages rather than promoting Moms looking younger to raise eyebrows or wives undergoing a 2-week breakfast challenge to woo their husbands.

When Modi could hire such a creative team to turn him into a brand, leveraging the team’s creativity for promoting his own ideas of Swacch Bharat or Beti Bachao Abhiyan is a no brainer solution.

Just like how Project Shakti from HUL, has been educating the rural segment about the importance of hygiene to promote Lifebuoy, Domex and Pure-it, brands like P&G and Johnson&Johnson should focus on Educational camps for promoting Whisper and Stay-free. And by the way merely awareness won’t help. Let alone outsiders they tend to shy away by fear and hesitation from their family members as well. The campaigns need to be a strong attempt to defy the social taboo targeting not only the protagonist but the family that needs to support her.

Above all, women in advertisements should no more be restricted to menstrual cycles or diapers, but everything ranging from automobiles to banking services which she can now handle as much as men. Not only it enhances the customer experience but also brings a positive impact to the society.

As quoted in a Hindu article “Films and ads have an aspirational value so even if 1 in 10,000 people get motivated, it’s good.”

About the Author

Fayaz is the founder of Marketing Bloggers. Apart from the jibber-jabber he is Human by birth, Engineer by mistake, Marketer by Choice.. That says it all :)